Hello &

Hello &

Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Into Practice by Wentworth Miller.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal."

Ah yes. That old chestnut.

With all due respect, f-ck that noise.

I understand the sentiment. "We only get one shot." Etc. I just find it totally unhelpful.

I'm a perfectionist with a capital "P." From way back. That voice in my head (loud, obnoxious) insisting I do it "right." Say it "right." Get it "right." (Whatever "it" is.)

And berates me when I don't.

It's no picnic. And it's been this way as long as I can remember.

I was raised in a series of cultures and environments with a common, not always underlying theme: 

"Do it beautifully or don't do it at all." Why? Because you'll be punished. Laughed at. Humiliated. 


When I was 10 I repeated a joke I'd heard at school to an adult with a significant amount of authority in my universe. I botched the punchline. Not only did this individual fail to laugh, I was advised to "stay away from comedy." To this day telling jokes stresses me out. As I near the punchline I can feel my heart accelerating, hear my voice rising in pitch until I sound like I'm 10 (again). Worried I won't stick the landing (again).

"Do it beautifully or don't do it at all."

Not long ago I was talking hobbies with a young woman who told me she loved to draw. But she didn't draw anymore. I asked why not. She said, "Because I wasn't very good at it." That made me sad. Here was someone who knew what brought her joy (not everyone does), knew what sunned her spirits on a rainy day, but didn't do it because she believed (was told?) she didn't do it well enough.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal."

"Performance anxiety." "Stage fright." These phrases are typically used to describe very specific scenarios, but I believe we can suffer from something similar in almost any context involving an audience. Be it one person, a hundred, or just ourselves. The pressure to get it "right" - and believing we only get one shot - can be paralyzing. That exam. Interview. Phone call. Application. 

Competition. First date. Second date. Etc.

There have been times in my life when I've avoided going to parties because I couldn't stand what came next - going home, getting into bed, and reviewing everything I did wrong. "Why did I say that? What was I thinking?" Tossing and turning for hours, obsessing over the only chance I had to get it "right" but didn't. Best to skip parties altogether.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal."

No. Sorry. I reject - and continue to reject, as often as necessary - the idea that my life is a ONE NIGHT ONLY performance. Along with the fear and anxiety that - for me - go with it.

Instead I'll be rehearsing. Which is to say, practicing.

My online dictionary says "to practice" is "to repeat an exercise or activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it."

Right now, for example, I'm practicing stringing sentences together on my laptop.

Tonight, out to dinner with a friend, I'll practice being a good listener. Articulating my thoughts and feelings. Ordering something different than usual. On a more elementary level (which might be necessary if I'm feeling tired or wired), I can practice sitting up straight. Bringing my fork to my mouth. If I need to break it down even further (which might also be necessary), I can practice feeling my feet on the floor. Breathing in and out. Blinking.

Since I'm "practicing" and not "performing," I can forgive myself if I don't get it "right." (Whatever "it" is.) If I fall short of what my inner voice (loud, obnoxious) defines as "perfect." I can work to create - consciously - a larger, more flexible mental and emotional space for myself in which accidents, upsets, oversights, fumbling, stumbling, faux pas, f-ck-ups, and mediocre showings are not only permissible but even, potentially, helpful. "It's okay. I'm practicing. This is how I learn/grow/stretch. With luck I'll get to try again."

And I'll tell you something - I've discovered a degree of freedom in failing. In not getting it "right."
I once held an administrative position in a men's circle that meant generating group emails on a regular basis. One week I challenged myself to include typos - intentionally - in every email I sent. To practice being okay with imperfection. That first typo? OMG. It was all I could do not to immediately send a follow-up email apologizing for the mistake. But by the end of the week the typos were flowing. Egregious. In your fface. And I liked it. (To a degree.) Somewhere inside me there was a kid who still believed a misspelled word meant The End Of The World. The adult me was relieved to confirm that No, It Didn't.

It's important to feel like I have the opportunity to succeed. It's also important to feel like I have permission to fail.

Both take practice.

We go to the gym to do "reps" and the yoga studio to practice poses. My local coffee shop is my gym. The post office my yoga studio. Ditto the airport, the freeway, and the supermarket. These are places I go to "repeat an exercise or activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it." Waiting in line? I'm practicing being patient. Some guy cuts me off in traffic? I'm practicing not giving him the finger. Performing a scene at work? I'm practicing getting my lines out in the right order and staying present for my scene partner. Something doesn't go the way it's "supposed to?" Doesn't go "right?" It's okay. I'm practicing. Pressure's off. Or at least, lessened. (Except when cameras are rolling, recording my every move. Then yes, it feels less like a "rehearsal" and more like a "performance." Less like "practice" and more like "permanent." But I can practice being okay with that.)

Additionally, critically, should I choose to/remember to, I can extend this perspective to others. "He's practicing not dominating the conversation." "She's practicing being a thoughtful ally." Etc.
I'm not talking about excusing bad behavior or moving through the world without healthy boundaries. I'm talking about holding a more generous and forgiving space for people. Reminding myself that how I frequently insist family, friends, and coworkers should be (perfect) is not how they are (imperfect). And that's okay. Seems fair to grant them the same grace and permission to fail without punishment that I would want - do want - for myself. Because they're practicing too. We all are.
Forgiveness takes practice. Is a practice. Also kindness. Kindness to ourselves and each other.

As children, many of us had the experience of coming to the world (or its representatives) with our gold in our hands and saying, "Here. This is my gold." And the world said, "That's not gold. That's sh-t." Then we grew up, became adults, and when the world (or its representatives) came to us with its gold in its hands we said, "That's not gold. That's sh-t."

I don't want to be one of those adults. (Does anyone? Really?)

Suddenly I’m realizing I have no idea how to wrap this up. I'm unsure how to stick the landing (again). And that's okay. I forgive myself. I'm practicing.

You are Gold Went honey, Pure Gold!!! 

Thank you for your wonderful inspiration everyday!

I love you! 


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